ALG Calls on TSA Nominee Southers to Answer Questions on Union Bargaining for Airport Screeners

"The Senate should reject this nomination and send a message to Barack Obama

that the TSA needs to be headed by a nominee who has a demonstrated ability

and willingness to be forthcoming to Congress about what is good security policy,

and what is not."  – ALG President Bill Wilson

January 4th, 2009, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today called on Barack Obama's nominee for Director of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Errol Southers, to answer outstanding questions about whether he would support mandatory union bargaining for TSA employees.

"The Senate, before it votes to fill this critical position, has a duty to ascertain if Mr. Southers favors mandatory union bargaining over the safety and security of the American people," said Wilson.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has placed a legislative hold on Southers, preventing him from being confirmed via unanimous consent.  It takes 60 votes in the Senate to break the hold.  Speaking on NBC News this morning with Matt Lauer, DeMint said, "what I've asked for, Matt, is just some debate and a recorded vote. They, they want to pass Mr. Southers in, in secret, without a recorded vote. I think there's some significant issues. I've asked him if he is going to change the policy of collective bargaining within the TSA and he will not give me a straight answer.

Wilson responded to charges that DeMint's hold prevented Southers from being confirmed.   "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not even schedule a floor vote on Southers prior to the botched terror attack of Flight 253 on Christmas," said Wilson, "because filling the position was not a top priority of the Senate." 

"A simple up or down vote could have had the nominee confirmed already.  Reid doesn't even need DeMint to lift the hold, he knows it, and has even acknowledged it," Wilson said, pointing to a December 29th statement by Reid, "I will file cloture on Mr. Southers' nomination when the Senate reconvenes in January…"

"Instead," Wilson said, "Reid has sought to use the terror attack as means of confirming an otherwise objectionable nominee," Wilson said, adding, "Which, is exactly how the Senate confirmed Kathleen Sebelius to the Department of Health and Human Services when they used the H1N1 scare as a means of skipping objections."

In a statement on January 1st, DeMint said, "Erroll Southers has not been forthcoming about whether he'll give union bosses control of our airport security, which is one of the most important decisions he'll make as head of the TSA. Mr. Southers' unwillingness to form a position on collective bargaining seriously calls into question his judgment, because it weakens security and has already been rejected by the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, and by every previous TSA administrator."

In testifying in front of Congress in November, Southers declined to say whether he would support union bargaining or not.  Wilson said he was "dodging."

"Mr. Southers ought to have an opinion about whether union bargaining would harm the administration of transportation security or not," Wilson explained, adding, "The fact that he did not deny it outright is troubling enough, since it indicates that he is considering it."

"The least Southers should be saying is that if union bargaining over security procedures would undermine said security, he would reject it," Wilson said.  "If he cannot be that specific, the Senate has no reason but to assume he's attempting to conceal his agenda, and that security is not his number one priority." 

As reported by the Federal Times, Southers "pledged to review the issue and said he would talk to a cross-section of stakeholders, including employees, before making a decision."

"Mr. Southers ought to just answer Senator DeMint's very simple question so Senators can make an informed vote on the nomination," Wilson said, adding, "The advice and consent of the Senate is not a guarantee."

Wilson said Southers should be rejected, regardless, for "abusing his position to order background searches on his wife's boyfriend in the 1980's."

As reported by PoliJam, "Errol Southers, a former FBI agent, had reportedly used his office in the 1980s to access a federal database in order to look into the background of his then-estranged wife's new boyfriend.  In a sworn affidavit on October 22, Southers gave certain details about the incident to the Senate homeland security committee, only to later notify the committee on November 20th that his first account was incorrect after the committee had already approved his nomination the day before on November 19."

"What is emerging with Mr. Southers is a pattern of dodging questions, withholding information, and changing stories," Wilson said, concluding, "None of which qualifies him to head the TSA, although he may have a future in politics.  The Senate should reject this nomination and send a message to Barack Obama that the TSA needs to be headed by a nominee who has a demonstrated ability and willingness to be forthcoming to Congress about what is good security policy, and what is not."